Friday, November 23, 2012

Goya, Francisco de

The Grape Harvest, or Autumn
oil on canvas
275 x 190 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

"Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels." (Goya)

Dressed in yellow clothes that symbolize autumn, a young man sitting on a stone offers a cluster of black grapes to a lady. A boy is eager to reach the offered fruit, which is reserved for the adults. A woman stands next to them, holding a grape basket on her head, much like the classical allegory of the goddess Ceres with fruit on her head. Some grape harvesters are behind them, next to the grapevine that leads to a valley crowned with the suggestion of mountains in the background.
The grape harvest is an allegory of autumn. This is one of the most beautiful and best-known compositions from all of Goya's cartoon series. It's pyramidal structure, and the figures that recall ancient statuary, define the artist's study of the classical artistic tradition. This cartoon was for one of the tapestries intended for the Prince of Asturias' dining room at the El Pardo Palace.

Goya, Francisco de (1746 - 1828) was born in a village in northern Spain. He was a consummately romantic court painter to the Spanish Crown whose paintings reflected contemporary historical upheavals and influenced important 19th and 20th century painters. The subversive and imaginative element in his art, as well as his bold handling of paint, provided a model for the work of later generations of artists, notably Manet, Picasso. He was regarded both as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns, but his genius was slow in maturing and he was well into his thirties before he began producing work that set him apart from his contemporaries.

For the bold technique of his paintings, the haunting satire of his etchings, and his belief that the artist's vision is more important than tradition, Goya is often called "the first of the moderns." He is known for his scenes of violence, especially those prompted by the French invasion of Spain, and his uncompromising portrayal of his times marked the beginning of 19th century realism.

Serious illness in 1792 left Goya permanently deaf. Isolated from others by his deafness, he became increasingly occupied with the fantasies and inventions of his imagination and with critical and satirical observations of mankind. He evolved a bold, free new style close to caricature. In 1824, after the failure of an attempt to restore liberal government in Spain, Goya went into voluntary exile in France. He settled in Bordeaux, continuing to work until his death there in 1828.

Goya completed some 500 oil paintings and murals, about 300 etchings and lithographs, and many hundreds of drawings. He was exceptionally versatile and his work expresses a very wide range of emotion. In his own day he was chiefly celebrated for his portraits, of which he painted more than 200; but his fame now rests equally on his other work. He had many children, but only one son survived to adulthood.